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From Dickinson to Dickinson: Education and energy find common purpose in storm relief

The staff of Elite Power proudly support their brothers in energy down in Texas, donating much-needed supplies for relief efforts. From left to right: Mel Wenko, Javier Delgado, Carter Maynard, Steph Arthaud, Seth Keator, Grant Walth and Kendra Palaniuk. (Courtesy of Steph Arthaud)1 / 2
As part of their ImpAct/I-Act class, Dickinson Middle Students brainstorm ideas as part of Hurricane Harvey relief (Patrick Bernadeau/The Dickinson Press)2 / 2

With the states of Florida and Texas still reeling from deadly, catastrophic storms, a pair of local schools are doing their part to get those locations back on their feet.

Students at Dickinson High School and Dickinson Middle School took the initiative, brainstorming and following through on plans to help the victims of Hurricane Harvey and Irma.

Most of the students attending these schools have only known Dickinson to be their home, so their compassion doesn't come from a place of experiencing or understanding what it's like sitting through 100 mph-plus winds or hurricane rainbands, but through images and video exhibiting the kind of damage these storms have caused.

"I was just really blown away," said Mckenna Weiler, a senior at Dickinson High. "I had seen before and after pictures and was like 'oh my goodness, this whole town is underwater.' It was like living in a lake."

Cora Knipp, a senior at Dickinson High, was stunned at the measures needed to save lives.

"There was this one photo of an elderly couple getting Jet-Skied out of their house, the Jet Ski is inside of their house," Mortensen said. "That's just crazy that the water was so high that you can't even walk inside someone's house without some kind of flotation device."

As members of the National Honor Society, Knipp and Weiler, along with Maddy Hanel, Mariah Mortensen and Ashley Davidson, are leading an effort for hurricane relief. They are creating three sub-committees for fundraising: a school-based committee where a penny war technique is used to collect donations, community-based committee where 35 donation jars were spread out at various locations in Dickinson and a T-shirt committee where on the front a graphic of Dickinson, N.D., and Dickinson, Texas, is joined as one. The t-shirts can be ordered at In only its first day, the school-based initiative raised $429.41.

"With the National Honor Society, it's about community service and giving back to others," said James Fahy, NHS director at Dickinson High. "That's what's expected of them when they apply for membership and what you are looking at are leaders who are wanting to spread that beyond our community and to our sister community."

"This is a group that really is the driving force. It wasn't an adult that decided this should be done, but it was this group of kids that decided that we needed to do something."

Meanwhile at Dickinson Middle School, their efforts are centered around the ImpACT/I-Act program taught and guided by long-time educator Mary Jane Jeske.

Broken into groups of three or four, the students, having seen and locating where the destruction hit hardest, were asked what emotions they imagined the Hurricane Harvey victims were feeling. Many responded with the words depressed, desperate, devastated and frightened. The students have created a collection bucket for donations as the kids were asked where they wanted to their money to go to. The popular answers were food, water and aid toward rebuilding buildings and homes. One student in particular voiced concern for Florida, wanting a portion of what's collected to go there.

In addition, DMS will prepare "cheer notes," to be sent to the seventh grade students and teachers in Dickinson, Texas.

"Leave it to the kids. They have super big hearts and super ideas," Jeske said. "Drawing attention to these kinds of acts, they'll become more caring people. Hopefully, people will think about others and not just satisfying yourself."

Brothers in energy

In the aftermath of the devastating hurricane that ravaged the Gulf Coast, a local energy company has gathered up friends and neighbors to send aid, from one Dickinson to another.

"We're actually sending all of our goods to Dickinson, Texas," Stephanie Arthaud, an accountant with Elite Power, said. " All of our stuff will be going down to the firefighters down there who will disperse it."

The warehouse portion of the Elite Power building in Dickinson was stacked with towers of tightly wrapped goods, ranging from canned food to dog treats to blankets, quilts, baby wipes and formula and all the essentials. All told there were 24 pallets of goods, each stacked 10 feet high.

"We've had tons of blankets donated, we had 50 quilts donated. On top of that we have 150 bags of dog food, dog treats, kennels, leashes," Arthaud said. "We made a call out to our competitors and other oilfield companies in the area and we kind of challenged them to do the same thing we were doing. We told them if they had any goods they wanted to send down, we'd pay for the shipping."

Though great distance divides North Dakota from the Gulf Coast of Texas, there exists an electric bond between the oil and gas industries of both states.

"We operate in the Bakken, but we have a lot of what you could call brothers and sisters who work down in Texas," Arthaud said. "They're all being uprooted right now and we thought we could do our part."

Elite Power put out the challenge, and a number of local and state businesses answered. Arthaud said they'd formed partnerships with Denny's Electric, Tooz Construction Inc. and Dickinson's favorite watering hole, Benny's Esquire.

"Bernie's Esquire has helped us out...they're one of our drop-off locations and they're giving a free drink to anyone who drops off," Arthaud said.

Elite Power finished up their collection efforts late last week, marking a successful finish to their first-ever relief project.

"This is the first time we've done something like this," Arthaud said. "It's really exciting and slightly overwhelming."